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A week after the visit by President Goodluck Jonathan to Borno and Yobe states, residents of the states bare their minds to Weekly Trust. Many accused the president of not meeting with the real victims of the insurgency and said he was forced to visit the two states after the visit by opposition governors
Yahaya Ibrahim (Maiduguri) & Hamisu Kabir Matazu (Damaturu)
When the news of President Goodluck Jonathan’s proposed visit filtered into the two states, many residents especially in Damaturu and Maiduguri welcomed it with high expectation. Many believed that the President’s visit would signal the end of violence in both states, or at least reduce it. A week after the visit, however, residents told Weekly Trust that they were disappointed.
The feelings among participants at the town hall meetings last week Friday were that of disappointment as they filed out of the multipurpose hall of the Borno Government House. Disappointments were visibly written on the faces of most residents who participated in the town hall meeting with President Jonathan who was on a two-day official visit.
Our correspondent observed people in clusters discussing as they left the hall. One of them said, “This man will not stop disappointing Nigerians. I thought his visit will bring some succor, but with the look of things I don’t think he is ready to address the insecurity problem facing us here.”
The President, who was visibly angry by the position taken by various speakers who called for amnesty to the Boko Haram sect and alleged excesses of the troops of the Joint Task Force (JTF), said the Borno Elders were just playing to the gallery. He warned that Boko Haram sect will continue to terrorize the state if the elders failed to condemn their activities. He also faulted the call for the withdrawal of JTF troops from the city.
Earlier at the town hall meeting, a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri, Professor Nur Alkali has painted gory pictures of how the JTF killed and maimed many residents of the city in the name of searching for suspected members of the Boko Haram sect, adding that the services they rendered were less than the atrocities being committed. He also said only dialogue can end the lingering crisis. Other speakers including the Borno Elders also agreed with the professor’s stand on the development.
However, residents who were hopeful that the President may tow the dialogue option to ending the violence were disappointed by his position. Residents told Weekly Trust that days after the President’s departure they were disappointed with Jonathan’s stand that he cannot dialogue with faceless people unless the sect came out from their hiding. Many of them believed that the Federal Government can get the insurgents to a round table if the President is ready to solve the problem.
They said rather than sympathizing with the people Jonathan only succeeded in adding salt to injury, even as others see nothing wrong with what the president as he was only been frank.
Modu Gana, a resident of Gwange ward told Weekly Trust that the coming of the President raised the hope of the residents that peace will return to Borno State again, but they were left with bitter memory which will remain with them for some time to come.
He said “we have been yeaning for peace for more than three years now, thinking that the coming of Mr. President will help to at least reduce the suffering of the people, but he only came here to insult the sensibility of the people.”
Another resident, a vegetable seller at the Baga market said “we are disappointed with what the president said. I thought he will call the soldiers to order, because they had killed, maimed and thrown people out of jobs. With the way he spoke, he is telling the soldiers to commit more atrocities.”
But a resident who simply identified himself as Bulus supported the decision of the Federal Government not to grant the sect members amnesty. “Frankly speaking I think the elders of this town are just being economical with the truth instead of calling their children to order they keep blaming JTF. It is left for the residents of this town to hold their own destiny into their hands and expose these boys, only then can the problem be solved,” Bulus said.
“The President was frank…nobody in his position will sit and get insulted; I think some people wanted to take him for a ride and he gave it back to them. Personally, I think he has never spoken like this since he assumed office,’’ Hajja Jummai, a resident who monitored the session on television said.
Mohammadu Bukar, a resident who said his younger brother is being detained by the JTF for more than eight months, said “I watched the meeting live on television, there is no single word of sympathy to residents who lost relatives or property from the President, only warning that he will not tolerate the killing of soldiers. To me, the coming of the President did not add any value, but only aggravated the suffering of the people.
A provision store seller, Mai Baba Kaka said “we all thought the President is going to look at the issue of arbitrary arrest and persecution of innocent people by the JTF, but he kept saying that he is not going to dialogue with ghost. What about the people who are in detention, are those ones ghosts too, how were they arrested by the JTF soldiers?’’ he queried.
A civil servant with one of the federal agencies in the state said “instead of the elders discussing about how to end the problem, they are busy calling for the withdrawal of soldiers from the city. Though I do not support their excesses, but who is going to stay in the state if the soldiers are withdrawn today?’’ he asked.
The state chairman of the Congress for Progress Change (CPC), Malam Ibrahim El-Zubair said the President has only succeeded in playing with the sensibilities of the people, because he did not bring any succor in respect of the insecurity problem confronting them.
El-Zubair who is also a member of the Borno Elders Forum said the President only poured uncomplimentary remarks which aggravated the troubles of the people who are anxiously waiting for him to come and sympathize with them.
Weekly Trust observed that the situation remain the same since the President visit with pockets of violence almost daily. Even his presence did not douse tension as several explosions were recorded, while he was still in the state. One week after his visit, residents are certain that the much anticipated peace would remain elusive for a long time to come.
In Damaturu also, many people reacted negatively to the president’s visit.
Muhammad Uwaisu said it’s just a political visit that was motivated by the APC governors’ solidarity visit to Borno.
“The President should have come on his own to assess and know what was exactly happening in the two troubled states. But he instead did the contrary. Besides, he failed to meet with the right people, the real victims, especially the widows and orphans. As far as I am concerned, the visit only succeeded in stopping people from carrying out their lawful business activities,” he said.
He told Weekly Trust that during the president’s visit to Damaturu, all road blocks were cleared to make the president to belief that all is well. But soon after he left, all road blocks returned, and some high ways were completely blocked.
“My prayer to the government is to try to understand the situation we are in and solve this ugly trend that has left many people dead. Dialogue is the only key that can solve this crisis,” Uwaisu said.
Also speaking, Aminu Lawal said that he was amazed by the president’s visit. “It is a shame that people were forced to remain in their houses. Many business men, especially those with perishable goods, recorded huge losses running into millions. “Trailers were blocked at Damaturu and Maiduguri entrances for more than two days, their goods perished and most of them were harassed by the security operatives. So in my opinion, the president’s visit was not worth it.